Curriculum Newsletter 6-12

April 2022


Classroom Management in the Music Classroom

Students need to learn about proper behavior in a musical setting as well as about music itself. A music teacher’s effectiveness and level of satisfaction they achieve will depend largely on their classroom management. Effective music teachers establish rules by explaining the reasons for their implementation and the benefits for everyone involved. They will also enforce rules fairly and consistently. When a child "tests'' their disciplinary measures, they act as unemotionally and objectively as possible. Teachers should never react emotionally because some students intentionally push teachers to lose their temper just to create excitement in the class. Effective music teachers have a toolbox of strategies to enforce discipline in their classrooms.

Effective music teachers……..

  • Teach students how musicians treat one another personally, critique one another's music, rehearse, and behave at concerts.

  • Provide every child with affirmation. Each student needs to know that he or she is accepted, even if, at times, his or her behavior is not.

  • Provide consistency, routine, and high-level expectations.

  • Create a sense of individual responsibility and accountability: Give students formal assessments about the music they are rehearsing, but use words such as "game" or "challenge"

  • Reinforce good performances with a variety of reinforcements, and provide opportunities for the class to "show off" their skills by performing for another class or few teachers.

  • Be specific when explaining how to improve behavior, while leaving the students' egos intact- if students are frustrated, embarrassed, or defeated, their attitudes will reflect it.

  • Create behavior contracts to provide structure and encourage students to behave in an acceptable and appropriate manner.

  • Select reinforcement and punishment techniques that are an obtainable, normal part of the class routine.

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Social Studies

It is essential to cultivate an educational culture that focuses on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) consistently throughout all learning environments. By teaching about DEI in the classroom we are teaching students to be more open minded and empathetic to the world around them.

Here are some ways to foster diversity, equity, and inclusion in the Social Studies classroom:

  • Recognize the uniqueness of your students: Foster a classroom that highlights your students’ own ethnic personalities. Allow students to show who they are and the uniqueness of their lives.

  • Varying your instructional strategies to meet the needs of all students: Instead of simply lecturing using a presentation, you might consider providing guided notes or chunking the material to make the content more accessible for all students.

  • Show multiple perspectives: Using a resource like In My Other Life, teach students to examine the world through multiple perspectives.

  • Celebrate diversity in your lessons: When developing your presentations, handouts, activities, and posters be sure to include images of people that represent different types of ethnicities, shapes, sizes, abilities, and clothing. It is important for classrooms to reflect the diversity of the world we live in every day rather than highlighting diversity during a specific time of the year.

  • Utilize guest speakers: Guest speakers can be a great way to learn about different people in your community while making the content more relevant for your students.

  • Incorporate different languages: Be cognizant of the different languages that may be present in your classroom and/or school and include these other languages on your hall passes, your exit signs, your calendars, etc…

  • Foster global pen pals: PenPal Schools is a way to connect your students to other students from around the world and develop a better understanding of the differences in the world around them.

Build Background Knowledge with Text Sets

Reading informational text can be challenging for our students; one of the barriers to comprehension is a lack of background knowledge. Before asking students to dive into a complex text or write an essay, consider building background knowledge with a lesson that incorporates a text set.

A text set is a collection of resources about a given topic that is organized for a specific instructional purpose. When creating a text set, consider including articles, interviews, political cartoons, infographics, TED Talks, speeches, poems, art, etc.

Text sets help students to:

  • develop a wider understanding of a topic

  • increase background knowledge, historical context, and/or academic vocabulary

  • develop confidence needed to participate in group discussions.

Text sets can be set up in many ways: a simple, bulleted list on a Google Doc, links on a Choice Board, or even icons included on a Bitmoji Classroom graphic. Depending on the teacher’s objective, the topic, and the available texts, students may also be able to choose the selections they’d like to review.

For any given topic, it’s important to include items that represent different perspectives, genres, and even levels of text complexities. Some places to look for high quality texts include: Newsela, CommonLit, PBS, Library of Congress,YouTube, New York Times Text to Text, and (political cartoons).

Working with text sets will undoubtedly prepare students to read complex texts, write with authority, and speak confidently … across all subject areas. In turn, this will boost our students’ ability to successfully acquire grade-level content and achieve greater success in middle school, high school, and beyond!

World Language Speaking Tasks for the Entire Class

Here are tasks that can involve the entire class in speaking to and listening to the vocabulary in the target language. The goal is to keep the students engaged and most importantly, participating in these two essential skills in communication. See that all student get to play both roles in speaking and being an active listener that can understand what the speakers are saying.

  • Going Once, Going Twice, Sold!- This activity involves students trying to convince their classmates into buying something. They’ll note all the benefits and advantages of the said product and deliver a sales pitch using the target language.

  • What’s the News?- Students pick a news event to report on, then act as if they’re a TV News anchor or field reporter telling the news to the class. This activity requires students to listen to their reporter give a detailed response to the event.

  • I Am History- Students pick a favorite historical figure and develop a clues as if they were the person. The class will guess who the character is.

  • Descriptive drawing activity: Partner students and provide a picture, placing it face down so their partners cannot see each other’s cards. They must describe the picture for their partner to draw.

  • Debates- Give each student a card or piece of paper with “agree” written on one side and “disagree” on the other side. Read aloud a statement, and have each student hold up their paper showing the agree or disagree side depending on their opinion. Choose one student from each side to explain their position and participate in a short debate.

Problem Based Instruction

Problem-based instruction means believing all students can solve problems on their own and giving them a chance to try. Although there are many types of wonderfully rich and engaging problems out there, problem-based instruction does not mean you have to work with any particular type of problem. You could run a problem-based classroom entirely on old-fashioned word problems.

Consider the following when lesson planning:

  • Build a lesson around a set of activities that students can work on by themselves or in groups, starting with a warm-up that activates relevant prior learning.

  • Activities should be designed to be amenable to varied approaches that different students might bring to the work.

  • Each activity has an opener which is designed to help them understand the problem without giving away the “punchline.”

  • Each activity has a synthesis, exit ticket, at the end where the teacher makes sure that each student has learned the mathematics the activity was designed to teach.

It is understandable that it may be difficult for you not to intervene and help a student who is struggling, but it is important to guide and allow students the chance to persevere and work through solutions in their own manner.

Marvelous Science Assessments: You Can Create Them, Too!

Truly implementing the Next Generation Science Standards (or NJSLS-Science) means not just making a shift in instruction, but also in assessment. Start by defining what students need to know. It should be a statement that comes directly from the standards, such as, “Maps of ancient land and water patterns, based on investigations of rocks and fossils, make clear how Earth’s plates have moved great distances, collided, and spread apart,” (ESS2.B: Plate Tectonics and Large-Scale System Interactions). That is a mouthful, so simplify the language for your students as needed.

Next, select a “phenomenon” that represents, in the natural world, this DCI or “Science Idea,” that the students need to know. This can include almost anything imaginable that is directly associated with the DCI (I like Science Idea better). For example, “There are many more earthquakes on the west coast of the US than the east coast of the US.” Find a resource that can be paired with this idea to make it visual! USGS is such a WONDERFUL resource.

When creating these investigations and assessments, be prepared to review and revise your tasks even when you’ve put a lot of work into them. There are SOOOO many resources out there. TOOOO many to list here, is one that is very valuable, especially for evaluating your work. The Science Assessment Task Screening Tool. That is also a mouthful!

This site provides two tools to easily incorporate into your design and assist in evaluating science assessment tasks. They are The Science Task Prescreen (Is it worth my time?) and The Science Task Screener (Let’s dig in!).

Below is an example of an investigation that can easily be adapted for assessment within each of the “Learning Tasks”. Try this, try that, try anything out of your comfort zone that you think may reach our students. Most of all, HAVE FUN! The world of scientific investigations is your oyster!

Earthquakes: East Coast vs West Coast Investigation

Dear Data Guy

I’m concerned about my students' NJSLA scores. Some of my students are behind, and I want them to do well. How can I help my students do well on the NJSLA?

I am glad you care about your students' performance. We have entered a period where students have significant gaps in their learning. The most important lesson I learned from the pandemic is to individualize instruction for students and meet the students where they are. First, we should encourage students to have a love of learning. If we force-feed students content, they won’t want to learn it. Secondly, it’s our job as educators to make learning fun for students. I would encourage ways to think outside of the box to help students learn the curricular content. It could be in the form of guest speakers, experiments, or a tech tool or game. Lastly, we should work on building student mental models. This means unpacking NJSLA questions to help them understand how to answer the questions and the process for finding the right answer.

Notes from Mr. Scotto

In the coming weeks we will begin planning for our HTSD Summer Institute for Professional Learning.

  • Have a specialized educational talent or skill?
  • Willing to turnkey a strategy that you learned from an out-of-district workshop?
  • Looking to develop your PD training experience?
  • Do you consider yourself a "teacher leader" in a particular area of education?
  • Have you taken coursework recently and would like to share your new learning?
  • Did you master an instructional technique during COVID that would help other educators?

If so....consider presenting this summer. Presenters are compensated and are able to select their own dates/times for summer PD.

Stay tuned for more information; presenter applications will be sent out soon.

Hamilton Township School District

Anthony Scotto, Director of Curriculum & Instruction


Alejandro Batlle, Health/PE and World Language

Kevin Bobetich, Testing/Assessment

Karen Gronikowski, Mathematics and STEM/STEAM

Francesca Miraglia, English Language Arts and Media Centers

Erick Shio, Social Studies and Business

Matthew Sisk, Science and Applied Technology

Danielle Tan, Visual and Performing Arts